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Making an explosive impact overseas

Explomo CEO Anthony Lye describes how the service provider has been able to establish itself internationally, thanks to its niche activities.

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"You mustn't be afraid to venture overseas," Mr Lye advises. While it is safe to remain in Singapore, Mr Lye says that going overseas helps a company to grow.

WHEN you find yourself stuck in an explosive situation, what do you do? Call in the experts, of course. Enter Explomo Technical Services, a Singapore-based company that provides land remediation services, civil defence shelter services and defence-related material disposal. Recently, the firm has also added pyrotechnical and firework displays to its repertoire of services.

Started in 1988, the company has been helping a slew of clients, ranging from the Singapore government to government agencies in Taiwan and Kuwait.

Its large regional footprint has earned it the Enterprise 50 (E50) Special Recognition Award - Internationalisation this year.

OVERCOMING CHALLENGES

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Explomo's founder and group CEO Anthony Lye saw a need for such services that inspired the beginnings of the company 30 years ago. At the start, Explomo faced financial challenges, but managed to overcome them.

"The opportunity came, and we seized it," says Mr Lye. He discovered that there was overseas demand for the company's offerings. And, as an entrepreneur, he decided to capitalise on that chance.

"You mustn't be afraid to venture overseas," he advises. While it is safe to remain in Singapore, Mr Lye says that going overseas helps a company to grow.

Of course, internationalisation came with its own challenges. There were regulation issues when the company first branched out into different countries as it had to adapt to the new environments.

However, Explomo worked with what it could control - its quality.

For all of its 30 years, the company has enjoyed a consistent track record. Coupled with a management team and a knack for innovation, Explomo was able to establish itself overseas.

"We are the only company in the nation that is doing this," points out Mr Lye, on what makes Explomo different.

Defence material removal services is a very niche industry, making Explomo stand out.

Reception towards Explomo's internationalisation has been positive thus far. Usually, the company stays eight or nine years to complete its projects. Mr Lye says: "We always get letters of commendation from our customers. That's why when we go overseas, we are invited to tender, because we qualify."

Niche businesses such as Explomo go where the need takes them. Most of the time, these companies are in Europe or the United States. Even then, there are usually only about four or five who do this type of work, according to Mr Lye.

The company has developed its own methodology that allows it to implement its processes overseas.

Mr Lye cites its UXO geophysical survey as an example.

UXO, otherwise known as Unexploded Ordnance, refers to explosive devices that have launched but failed to operate as intended. Explomo uses a non-intrusive UXO survey and mapping methods to cover wide areas and minimise environmental impact.

The company is comprised of specially trained soldiers who are able to handle UXOs. It also adheres to strict guidelines, both in and out of Singapore.

Explomo's first venture overseas was to Taiwan, where it stayed for 11 years. After a conflict between China and Taiwan, in which the latter was bombed for a period of time, Explomo was invited to do land remediation. The area was then littered with mines and other UXO devices. To ensure the land could be used, these explosives needed to be cleared away.

The land was badly affected and no one could do anything, remembers Mr Lye. The area was also by the coast, where much of the prime land was. Without Explomo's services, the land would have been "a white elephant", as Mr Lye describes.

Explomo also offers its services to conflict areas such as Iran. It uses its technologies to scan the land, identify the area of the land, investigate the soil and identify and remove the explosives. "Some areas we have done removal are the size of Singapore," Mr Lye shares.

The company also has a research and development team that helps ensure easy applications both in Singapore and overseas. Typically, it does a market study and experiments with different technologies.

Moving forward, Mr Lye says that the company hopes to move into the Middle East. "We intend to use more of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and video analytics to improve safety, lower costs and improve the quality of our services."

Though its work may seem dangerous, it is not to Mr Lye. He cites the well-trained staff as a source of assurance. The staff they hire have at least 10 years of Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experience.

"To someone who is unfamiliar with this, it is very dangerous. It all depends on perspective," he feels.

The company's reputation has helped it to land jobs internationally. "In this business we are doing, only applied knowledge is useful. You need experience, you need applied knowledge with many years of track record," says Mr Lye.

Even Explomo's pyrotechnics business is not left behind. The company has been engaged for international events such as the Youth Olympic Games and the Olympics and by clients such as Universal Studios.

TECHNOLOGICAL ADVANCES

Explomo hopes to invest more in technological advances in future. Mr Lye says the company also hopes to provide more consultancy jobs. Explomo has plans to open an office in Abu Dhabi as it provides more consultancy jobs there, he reveals.

Explomo also intends to use AI to digitise the workflow. Additionally, it plans to adopt Virtual Reality (VR) technology to improve security. VR could send alerts to Explomo on danger areas and also churn out incident reports.

"Whatever we do, we are always cautious. We keep it simple. We like to make complications look simple," Mr Lye adds.